Briefing 6.1
Identifying, reporting and monitoring sexual harassment against women in the workplace

1. Introduction

Summary of key points

  • It is important to find gender-sensitive ways to identify, report and monitor sexual harassment.
  • Sexual harassment and violence are very sensitive issues and many women fear that there will be reprisals and consequences if they report cases of sexual harassment.
  • Practical, creative and participatory techniques are needed to help identify and monitor workers’ experience of sexual harassment.

This briefing looks at a range of practical tools that can be used to identify and monitor violence and sexual harassment in the world of work. There are many challenges in identifying the problem: the nature of global supply chain workplaces, the invisibility and under-reporting of the issue, lack of effective systems to prevent gender-based violence and sexual harassment, fear of consequences and lack of power of vulnerable workers.

In some regions, forms of gender-based violence like verbal and physical abuse are so commonplace that victims regard such treatment as normal, even if it is disturbing.  Workers, often fearful or too embarrassed to talk about sexual matters, may not realize that what happens to them is gender-based violence or sexual harassment, that it is against the law in their country and that other workers are also victims. Fear of reprisals, blaming the victim, and stereotypes of garment or farmworkers who are perceived as promiscuous and having ‘low status’, can all play a role in the under-reporting of sexual harassment. As sexual harassment is a very sensitive issue it is important to look at effective ways to collect data and to enable women to speak confidentially, openly and honestly, and to be able to do this safely as many women will fear the consequences of discussing their experiences.

Tailoring activities to workers’ experiences is very important in reaching women workers and giving them a voice. Practical techniques that are discussed in this module aim to help identify and monitor workers’ experiences of sexual harassment and abuse.